Everything Is Bigger in Texas
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 3, 2015) – As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, everything is bigger in Texas is not just a saying, it rings true in many ways for Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
Why is that the case? Because, with just three races remaining in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Busch and his team are very much in the championship battle, and a win Sunday at Texas would be bigger than ever before as it would punch his ticket to the Championship Four showdown at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.
After sweeping the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup races at Texas in April 2013, Busch hopes he can at least equal his impressive Sprint Cup weekend there two years ago, which saw him lead eight times for a race-high 171 laps and bring home his first Texas win in NASCAR’s top series.
Last season, while Busch didn’t visit victory lane at Texas in either Sprint Cup race, he brought home two solid top-five finishes – third place in the Duck Commander 500 in April and a fourth place finish in the November AAA Texas 500. That gave him five top-fives in his last eight starts at the 1.5-mile oval. He has 19 career Texas starts with eight top-fives in all.
While the 2013 Sprint Cup win was Busch’s first there, he has been no stranger to victory lane at Texas. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins there from April 2008 to April 2010. Add his two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009 and 2010 and it’s no wonder Busch is eyeing victory lane Sunday.
He currently sits second in the standings heading to Sunday’s second race of the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Jeff Gordon punched his ticket to the four-driver, winner-take-all championship race at Homestead by virtue of his win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last weekend. Now, Busch is the highest driver in the standings not locked into Homestead and will look to either solidify his second position in the points or, better yet, automatically punch his own ticket to the championship round with a win.
So while Busch and his M&M’S Crispy team look to add yet another signature cowboy hat and six-shooters as race winner in the Lone Star State to their steadily growing trophy collection, Busch knows that victory on Sunday would be bigger than any of his previous Texas wins.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What makes Texas such a unique track to be in the Chase?
“Texas is unique because its asphalt is starting to age and get older, but it’s not like Atlanta. Atlanta is, like, you run one lap and you’re done, you want a fresh set of tires. Texas, you can go a few laps and you can run a little bit before you kind of want to have that fresh set of tires. But at Charlotte, you can run the same lap time for 25 laps at Charlotte. All those racetracks are really, really different, but Texas has kind of come into its own where it’s really a different place. The transitions in and out of the corners, and then of course the bump in the center of (turns) one and two, and then there are some more bumps that are developing at kind of the exit off two right in the middle lane, it’s kind of hard to run there sometimes. And then where the grooves have kind of been the last few times through three and four, right in the middle with left sides on that first seam, that has been a really good groove. Really it’s got a lot of options for drivers and that’s what we all enjoy. We weren’t able to race there in the spring, but I have plenty of experience there and know that our M&M’S Crispy Camry team will be ready for the challenge this weekend.”
How does it feel to be in this position in the Chase?
“It feels really good. It feels easy and you’re looking at the watch and wondering when it’s going to run out. That’s essentially where it’s going to run out. I’ve been in that situation in 2008 and, man, I just remember asking some of my guys on the team and wondering if it’s really this easy and how it’s possible. We just have to try to get back on that roll. If we can win two out of the next three, I think we’ll be champions, right.”
How special was it to get your first Texas win in April 2013, which also happened to be your 300th Sprint Cup start?
“It felt good to sit on the pole with a new track record and go to victory lane. Doesn’t get much better than that. It was a fast race and I expect more of that this weekend. Texas is fast. We’re able to carry a lot of speed throughout the turns and down the straightaways throughout the whole race. It was a tough day there for a bit, getting loose, trying to slide around, trying to find grip, being able to move to the middle or move to the top. As soon as that caution came at the end, my boys stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam and got us to victory lane. I was very proud of those guys and, hopefully, they can get us another good stop on Sunday and help get our M&M’S Crispy Camry to a win.”
Are you getting more comfortable at Texas each time you go back?
“It used to not be so much. I had some wild races there early on in my career and it wasn’t one of my favorite places, for whatever reason. Things have gone well, recently. The spring was a dream weekend for me there. Obviously, the Xfinity Series wins I had there all in a row, and the Truck Series wins, have been real confidence-boosters. I’ve sort of learned how to drive it a little bit better and I know what I need in my racecar to make it easier. The cars JGR has given me since I joined the team have also been a confidence-booster there.”
Do you approach Texas differently than other mile-and-a-half racetracks?
“Texas is a really fast mile-and-a-half racetrack. Charlotte has been fast the last few years and Texas has always kind of been that way. The asphalt is getting a little bit older. But, for as old as the asphalt is, it’s still really fast for a few laps and it’s still kind of a pain, sometimes, because it is so aero-dependent that, when you do run the bottom, it’s hard to pass. You’ve got to be able to move around a little bit and run the middle, run the top and show some ability to go all over the racetrack. We’re getting closer each and every time, it feels like. Sometimes not so much – you kind of go forward and then you go backward and then you kind of come back forward some.”
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